Heimlich maneuvre has no scientific evidence

The Heimlich manoeuvre is an established first aid technique for removing a blockage, commonly from food.  First aid courses in Australia do not teach the technique as the evidence for the efficacy of the technique is lacking.  The Australian recommendation is to relax the person so that they can cough and to dislodge the blockage through solid thumps on the back.

First aid instructors need to spend time in almost every first aid class to counter the cultural dominance of the Heimlich manoeuvre.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “The Health Report” investigates the evidence for and against the Heimlich manoeuvre with interviews with Dr Henry Heimlich and with one of Dr Heimlich’s critics, his son Peter.  Peter describes his father as a celebrity doctor.

A Wikipedia article on choking includes the following quote from a 2005 article in the Cincinatti Magazine:

“According to Roger White MD of the Mayo Clinic and American Heart Association (AHA), “There was never any science here. Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at the AHA, caved in.”

The relevance of this podcast is very important for OHS professionals as an indication of the competence and validity of first aid training providers.

The podcast also raises other relevant issues concerning evidence-based decision-making, the manipulation and power of the media, and the credibility of subject-matter experts.

The podcast is a fascinating medical tale, a family saga and, perhaps, a case study for media students, but mostly as a precautionary tale for OHS professionals.

Kevin Jones

Categories first aid, health, media, OHS, risk, safety, UncategorizedTags ,

1 thought on “Heimlich maneuvre has no scientific evidence”

  1. Seems that someone always has to find something wrong with just about everything, if only to garner attention for themselves. I have seen several instances where the Heimlich Maneuver was successful in saving a life. Regardless of whether or not some take issue with it, it works. What more do you need to know? Sounds like sour grapes between son and father.

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